Western Europe has always dominated the tourist trail, casting a very vast and dark shadow on its eastern counterpart. Its dark 20th century history not favoring it as well, tourists often miss out on the goodies that seasoned travelers revel about the most. Welcome to Slovenia! One of the nations that used to be part of Yugoslavia, hence, more bad memories.
“Where the hell is Slovenia?” Said our local volunteer guide for our free walking tour in Ljubljana, the nation’s capital. Not to know the answer to such sarcastic and rhetorical, close to being metaphorical question, is forgivable. Slovenia is a really small nation that you can traverse it from its northernmost border with Austria to its southern end along the Adriatic sea in a half a day’s time. Located in the middle of such touristic heavyweight countries such as Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary and Croatia to the east, making it a melting pot of different cultures.
Europe in one country
From its diverse topography, it has all the cliches of Europe in it.
1. Of course, It has to have a lake with a church at the middle, a very beautiful and ever-changing with the season in Bled. I was here during winter and it felt like I was the only tourist in town, it was reassuring, and horrifying that I was the only guest in my hostel, and the receptionist leaves at 9pm. The whole town felt like Silent Hill at night, I couldn’t see past 3 meters with the fog. Whew!
2. From the town of Bled, you can visit a river that violently gushes along the Vintgar gorge. Although my guidebook says that it closes during winter, the receptionist from my hotel secretly hinted that yes it is closed, but nobody really bothers to watch if life-risking tourists dare to enter. Good enough for me. Apparently, it was not the easiest part of my visit to Slovenia. Wood planks were broken, solid slippery ice clung on it too, I slipped a few times, dropped my damn moisturizer beyond arms reach, you need it in winter regardless of your metrosexual requirements, I let it go. From the exit, you enter a forest and walk through unmarked snow trail, with no other person but you, with more luck than you need, hopefully you will find the exit.
As if this ever stopped me.
3. The highest point in Slovenia, Mt. Triglav. Its easy to skip this one because of the more competitive ski resorts along the more famous mountains of Austria and the alps, but for a Slovenian, it is highly regarded. You have no right to call yourself a Slovenian if you haven’t climbed it.
4. One of the most beautiful underground caves in the continent in Skocjan. A nondescript, oft missed out town perched on top of a sink hole, no wonder, is where you can enter the archaeological treasure of Skocjan cave. From the entry that is reminiscent of a mine passage, you descend alarmingly deeper underground, just 223 meters below is the lowest point. Goosebumps crawling on my skin, I entered, alone with a dodgy guide who between him and I, had the only access to the light switch.
The empty town of Skocjan.
From outside the cave.
The famous photo, the hanging bridge they made to cross a very deep whole, is probably the highlight of the trip. So deep that you cannot see the bottom of it, drop a coin, as my creepy guide suggested, and you will not hear it fall to the bottom. Make no mistake, there is a gushing river below, and from where I stood, there was no sound of such to be heard. Although photos were not allowed, there’s no stopping my lust for life.
5. My favorite, the port of Pirano. Its shaped like a dagger as it stabs the Adriatic sea. It used to be a part of the Venetian kingdom, so that explains why Italian language is spoken here, and houses are reminiscent of Venice. Narrow, winding cobbled lanes, fancy windows, a very big square and sea food, reminds me of King’s Landing.
I stood at this view point as I wondered what good in life did I do to deserve this?
Quite a big square for a small port town.
Narrow, and winding cobbled lanes.
Boy I was glad to see the sea, after being land locked for weeks, I can say without bias that one of the best sea food I’ve had is from a local family run restaurant called Pri Mari, redundantly translates in English as by the sea. Its worth the detour in itself.
Oh, and they have a violinist as a national hero too, talk about renaissance.
Neighboring with Italy, they adopted this ugly habit.
6. Most importantly, its capital, Ljubljana, my image of medieval Europe and its lofty cultural status to back it up, is the top reason why I can call Slovenia, Europe in a country. Ljubljana might not compare with the performers of Staatsoper and the history of Vienna, but it does sure look a like. Lifestyle obediently follows. Obviously, though unfairly, it is often nicknamed a small Vienna
With a castle on top of a hill which Veronika regrets not visiting before she decided to die.
They are obsessed with bridges too.
The square at night.
The last necessary medieval effect.
Why go to Slovenia? Its cheap, still gives off a sense of the old Yugoslavia, but most definitely because its not visited by hordes of annoying tourists that line up outside the Louvre.